If you’ve been following Mr. Phone for some time, you will know that we are trying hard to create in-depth smartphone camera comparisons for different phones. This helps buyers and our readers determine which smartphone camera they prefer and like. Xiaomi’s Mi A2, which was launched recently in India, is a unique smartphone: one that touts its cameras more than other features.
And therefore, we decided to do one of a kind unique comparison. Up until now most of the sample pictures in our comparisons have focussed on technical photography. But this time, we decided to have some fun. We pitted the Mi A2 against more expensive phones like the OnePlus 6 and the Google Pixel 2 to find out how it fares.
But that’s not it, we also contacted Instagram fashion influencer Bhavya Monga and convinced her to collaborate with us. Bhavya and Mr. Phone’s editorial team headed to Champa Gali, a unique and artsy passageway in Delhi filled with markets, cafes, art exhibit shops, and more.
As usual, let’s take a quick look at the specs first. By the way, let it be known that we aren’t really trying to find a winner at the end of the comparison. We know and understand that these three phones are in absolutely different price segments. This comparison will prima facie help us understand how close the Mi A2’s cameras can get to more expensive phones.
P.S. OnePlus has Beauty mode on by default for the rear camera for some odd reason. We have switched it off. Also, we are running on the latest Oxygen OS 5.1.9 update, which is touted to improve camera performance.
Okay, shall we move on?
P.S. We urge you to click on the images to view it in full resolution. Only, then you will be able to tell the differences in details and colour accuracy.
So, we started off by shooting Bhavya in a pretty little corner of Champa Gali. Evidently, she was in her element, posing away to glory. You will immediately notice that the contrast is way better on the Pixel 2 and the Mi A2’s shots. The OnePlus 6’s image looks flat and lifeless in contrast. Some people like this look as well.
However, the Pixel 2 offers the best details of the three samples. From Bhavya’s hair to her jacket have far more texture and definition. Overall, we think the Pixel 2’s image is the best but the Mi A2 has done a commendable job too. Honestly, the OnePlus 6’s image here pales in comparison, like the details itself.
As is the case with most of our wide shots, it is really difficult to notice the differences in our samples at first glance. But you know us, we love to pixel peep. One of the things we immediately noticed is that OnePlus has botched up the white balance in the image. However, both the OnePlus 6 and the Pixel 2 definitely offer a lot more details across the image – from the center to the corners. The Mi A2 offers softer details in comparison, and that’s where you know the sensor doesn’t match up. Having said that, the Mi A2 shoots perfectly good images for sharing to social networks.
In our second image, which is shot in a vertical orientation, the Mi A2 – shockingly – takes the better image of the three. Xiaomi’s JPEG noise compression does a good job of not killing the details. Honestly, the Mi A2’s IMX486 sensor does a very good job in this scenario and considering its price range we are surprised how Xiaomi has managed to pull this off.
For our close up test, we decided to give Bhavya some respite. Our order of garlic fries looked pretty damn tempting; not just to eat but also to shoot. So before stuffing our face with these fries, we pushed the smartphone cameras closer to it.
The Pixel 2’s images might look muted but it does the best job of keeping the white balance in check. And as far as the details are concerned, all the three phones manage to do a great job of capturing adequate texture in the fries and the garlic shavings.
Want to grab a bite of these fries? Go ahead, we won’t stop you.
What we like about our HDR samples is that it lays bare how each phone’s algorithm works. Allow us to explain.
- The Pixel 2 has a very aggressive auto-HDR mode and most of the images look impressive as a result. And, once you switch off the HDR mode you can immediately see how it works. In HDR off, all the highlights and shadows are literally non-existent. The dynamic range is next to nil. But with HDR+ on (not HDR+ enhanced, mind you), the Pixel 2 immediately jacks up the highlights and brings out more details from the shadows. It looks good.
- Xiaomi, on the other hand, has a weird way to do HDR. And, we’ve seen this on the Redmi Note 5 Pro a number of times before. The algorithm brings out a lot of detail from the highlights but it does very little to improve the shadows.
- The OnePlus 6 has a great HDR mode, which does very little tweaking but it is enough to improve the dynamic range perfectly.
We prefer the OnePlus 6’s implementation but let it be known that the Pixel 2’s auto-HDR mode is really unbeatable in most scenarios. In fact, all of the details that you see in the other photos are a function of the great auto-HDR mode by default.
In our Portrait mode, as far as the amount of background blur is concerned, you will notice that the Mi A2 has a very aggressive blur compared to the Pixel 2. Whereas, the OnePlus 6 tends to be somewhere in between the two. The OnePlus 6 does the best edge detection but the Pixel and the Mi A2 are not far behind. This is surprising considering the Pixel has always been better in this regard. But, the Pixel definitely offers far better details and enhances the facial tones in Bhavya’s face.
The second portrait shot is a tough shot for the cameras because the extremely pretty wall in the background is at a slight angle. Now, all the three cameras do portrait mode in a linear fashion. Which means that the intensity of the blur starts reducing from the closest part of the background and extends into the farthest part. You can see the same happening with the three samples we’ve shot. But the Mi A2 offers the most blur in the closest part of the wall, making the depth look very natural and pleasing to the eyes.
While the Pixel’s blur is applied similarly, we noticed some inconsistency in certain parts where it looks like the background is actually in focus. Long story short, the Xiaomi phone is doing a commendable job at blurring backgrounds in portrait mode. And, edge detection as well.
Moving on to selfies, the moment we saw the Pixel 2’s sample, we were floored. From the details in the textures on Bhavya’s jacket to the background, the Pixel 2’s selfie is better looking than the other two. We are not disregarding the selfies captured by the Mi A2 or the OnePlus 6 but we can’t deny that the Pixel 2’s 8MP camera does a better job of capturing details. And, here’s where we’d want to break that megapixel myth.
The Pixel 2 captures more details primarily because it has a 1.4-micron pixel size sensor, which is much larger than the pixel sizes on the other two cameras. Having said that the OnePlus 6 also offers plenty of details and the Mi A2’s pixel binning to 2-micron pixel size is not too bad either.
Standalone, all these three selfies look incredible and if we weren’t pixel peeping, it’d be difficult to find faults.
While the Pixel captures great selfies, for some odd reason, it falters really badly in the selfie portrait mode. You will see a really bad cutout near Bhavya’s hair and it looks macabre. On the flipside, the OnePlus 6’s selfie portrait is plain stunning!
From the accurate colours to the cutout to the details to the neat depth effect on the background, the OnePlus 6’s selfie portrait has evolved beautifully. The Mi A2 does a great job too but the excessive beautifying that’s happening even by default is a little annoying.
We shouldn’t be pinpointing here because technically, the Mi A2 cannot shoot 240fps 720p video, which the other two phones can. The Mi A2 tops out at 120fps, which is not bad either in all honesty. We shot a dreamy footage of Bhavya walking towards the camera and it looks stunning, to say the least on all the three cameras.
But, the Mi A2 struggles with focus and exposure control and ends up doing a lot of hunting. In fact, even the Pixel 2 and the OnePlus 6 struggle with exposure hunting. But honestly, you see a clearer Mi A2 footage and it might look good to your eyes primarily because it is at 120 fps and the camera has time to capture more information. Regardless, all the three slow-motion footages look great.
Please note: All our video samples are bunched in one single YouTube video below.
It is commendable that the Xiaomi Mi A2 can shoot 4K video in the first place. Unfortunately, it cant do EIS in 4K. All you need to do is shoot at 1080p and you are sorted. But we want to point you to Pixel’s incredible stabilisation skills. Just look at the footage. It feels like we actually snapped the phone to a gimbal or something. It looks phenomenal.
Details-wise all the phones shoot at around 40Mbit/s and it shows in the video quality. But, you will notice that the Mi A2 has underexposed the footage one stop. And as far as the sound quality goes, the Mi A2 is a lot noisier compared to the other two that offer better noise reduction. This is the difference between a flagship and a mid-ranger.
We asked Bhavya to capture a video of herself using the front cameras on the three phones. The phones can all shoot 1080p video footage at 30fps. But, the Pixel shoots only mono audio. And therefore, the audio recording quality using the front camera is average at best. The OnePlus 6 offers the best audio recording in this round of testing. It is crisp and clear and offers decent noise reduction as well.
As far as the quality of the footage, we liked the details on the OnePlus 6’s footage. But, as we’ve come to learn from our previous comparisons the OnePlus 6 captures a very narrow-angle. On the other hand, the Pixel 2’s video is a little too hazy and dreamy. The Mi A2 strikes the right balance between the two and shoots an immediately share-worthy footage. We can easily recommend the Mi A2 to folks who are looking at a budget video shooting device. It is a good performer even if you plan to do some vlogging.
Finally, we bid adieu to Bhavya and headed back home. And since no Mr. Phone camera comparison is complete without a low light test, we decided to shoot a few samples at home. In our sample, you will notice that the Mi A2 has done a commendable job in low light. Unless you zoom in and check the 100 percent crop, honestly you won’t be able to tell the differences. But we shall do that for you.
- You will notice that the Pixel 2 and the OnePlus 6 have slightly better control over the dynamic range. Take a look at the light being emitted by the bulb.
- Honestly, we tried to dig in but we couldn’t find any difference in the level of details. That says a lot about the sensor inside the Mi A2’s primary rear camera.
- The OnePlus’ new update has reigned in on the warm colour temperature while shooting low light shots using the OnePlus 6. We are pretty glad that has happened.
- At the edges of the image, you can see some artefacts in Mi A2’s noise compression algorithm. In comparison, the OnePlus 6 and the Pixel 2 don’t do much to reduce the noise but at least the details are preserved as a result.
We also shot using the secondary camera on the Mi A2, which does pixel binning to convert the 1-micron pixel size of the Sony sensor to a larger 2-micron pixel size. You can invoke this only in the manual mode. So, we essentially kept all the other parameters like the ISO, white balance, shutter speed, etc. at auto. Unfortunately, our shot was riddled with noise but the details were preserved. If you ask us, we’d still pick the camera sample using the primary 12MP sensor.
Low light selfie
In our low light selfie test, we move from Bhavya’s pretty face to Ershad’s…umm…how do we put this subtly? Ugly face? Yeah well, that sounds about right.
Jokes aside, in this test, you will notice that the OnePlus 6 and the Pixel 2 do some aggressive colour temperature correction to make Ershad’s face pink. The Mi A2’s 20MP selfie camera does a much better job at facial tones and colour accuracy. But, once again the details in the Pixel 2’s selfies look excellent.
As far as the portrait mode is concerned, it is honestly very difficult to find clear differences in edge detection. But we really like how the Mi A2 is once again doing a commendable job. If you do plan to buy the Mi A2, you will have fun shooting with it.
Watch Video Review
From shooting with Bhavya to using three different phones from three completely different price brackets, this was by far the most fun we had doing a Mr. Phone camera comparison. Like we said before, this comparison will not declare a winner as such but it will help us identify how the Mi A2 compares to more expensive flagships like the OnePlus 6 and the Pixel 2. And as is evident from the tests, the Mi A2 stands tall!
There is no denying that the Pixel 2 is still a champ when it comes to capturing details thanks to its incredible auto-HDR and camera algorithm. The OnePlus 6’s new update improves the camera performance in low light situations and it continues to be a great camera, only not the best flagship camera. The Mi A2, however, makes the right compromises to give you what is possibly the best camera experience under Rs 20,000.